Last week, the Tooele sports community — and the baseball community, in particular — lost one of its legends when Angelo Cerroni, The Godfather of Legion Baseball in this area, passed away at age 89.
There’s no telling how many lives Cerroni impacted over the years. Heck, the guy coached probably 20 years after most other people would have called it quits. But not Cerroni, who loved the game and the kids too much to give it up. He was proudly old-school in a generation not accustomed to it, but those kids embraced him and he embraced them right back.
His accomplishments include state championships, working as a professional scout for the Angels and being inducted into the Legion hall of fame. Those are all evidence of a legacy that will continue to live on.
But there’s one part of Cerroni’s legacy that it’s up to the rest of us to preserve — the Dow James Field that he constructed and turned into one of the premier baseball diamonds in the state.
Carved out of a garbage dump all those years ago in a much more hardscrabble version of Tooele, the field was the epitome of “the diamond in the rough.” It was a jewel that every player in Utah wanted to play on, with some describing it as being as close to playing on a major-league field as they would ever get. It was truly a gem, and something Tooele could be proud of.
It isn’t that way anymore. Sadly, it has fallen into disrepair. Cerroni’s old perch on the second level of the press box? Dilapidated. The field is riddled with ruts and holes and has become a safety hazard with its numerous bad hops waiting to turn routine ground balls into wayward projectiles. It has gone from a jewel to a place that opposing coaches hate bringing their teams to.
It is time to give Cerroni’s work the treatment it deserves. Let’s smooth out all the bumps and give it a fresh layer of sod, eliminating the patches that are either dead or weed-choked. Let’s give the backstop a fresh coat of purple paint, covering up that fading light blue. Let’s replace that old press box, or at least revitalize the old one and build some permanent restrooms. A new sound system would help complete the job.
It’s time for Tooele City government to step up to the plate on this one, or if they don’t want to, it’s time to let someone who wants to return the field to its former glory have a shot at it — maybe Tooele High baseball coach Nolan Stouder, who has mentioned on more than one occasion that he’d like to help?
Whoever is ultimately responsible, it all comes down to one thing — preserving Angelo Cerroni’s legacy for generations to come. Cerroni built a jewel out of a garbage dump. Let’s not let it regress back to its former use.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He truly appreciates the work that coaches like Cerroni do for our community’s youth. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.